What many people don’t realize is that Purim, the jolly, drink-all-you-can, feasting and costume-based holiday, is actually on par with the holy day of Yom Kippur!

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

The week we celebrate the holiday of Purim, which commemorates the rescue of the Jewish People from the evil Haman, a senior official in ancient Persia who was planning the extermination of all the Jews, as recounted in the Book of Esther.

What many people don’t realize is that Purim – the jolly, drink-all-you-can, feasting and costume-based holiday – is actually on par with the holy day of Yom Kippur! How is this possible?

The true name for Yom Kippur is “Yom Hakipurim.” While both terms are translated as the Day of Atonement, the latter, “Yom Hakipurim,” which is used in scripture, can actually be translated as “the Day that is like Purim” (Kipurim = like Purim). With this in mind, we can even suggest that Purim is holier than Yom Kippur! Why? Because Yom Kippur is “like” Purim…but Purim is the REAL holy day!

There are other connections between Purim and Yom Kippur as well. Let’s look at one of the primary passages regarding the Yom Kippur service:

“Aaron shall bring atonement upon the altar once a year. From the blood of the sin-offering of atonement, once a year he shall bring atonement upon it, for all your generations.”

This passage can be sliced into two separate statements. The first half specifies “once a year,” while in the latter half we have reference to forever — “for all your generations.”

As part of the Yom Kippur service, an offering was made on the altar for atonement for the Jewish People. Of course, there are no animal sacrifices performed in Judaism nowadays. The Yom Kippur sacrifice was erformed only when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem. At that time, it was an annual ceremony.

But the passage is telling us “for all your generations.” How is atonement made in generations like ours, when there is no Temple and therefore no sacrifices? How do WE get atonement?

The answer is Purim! What Yom Kippur can accomplish with fasting, Purim accomplishes with feasting! Purim is forever with no sacrifices needed.

There is yet another way in which the two holidays are connected. In order to gain atonement, to be forgiven for one’s sins on Yom Kippur, one must sincerely repent and commit to becoming a better person and a better Jew. One who simply fasts on Yom Kippur without engaging in self-reflection and repentance essentially accomplishes nothing. But to gain atonement on Purim and ,by extension, get close to God, it suffices to merely celebrate and observe the Purim holiday! No special repentance necessary.

Yom Kippur and Purim, falling roughly six months apart from one another, are like two sides of the same coin. It is one goal with two ways to get there. While it is praiseworthy that Jews appreciate and revere Yom Kippur, and with good reason, many unfortunately miss the holiness of Purim and mistake it for some kind of masquerade party. Far from it!

As we have seen, what we can accomplish on Purim cannot even be accomplished on Yom Kippur. So be sure to utilize the day to its fullest, perform the mitzvot (Torah commandments) required, and have in mind that by doing so you are getting closer to God in ways that are not possible at any other time of year.